The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Journey to the tourney: Cougar resume reviewed

WSU men’s basketball with best chance to make NCAA tourney in years
WSU center Rueben Chinyelu shooting the ball during an NCAA men’s basketball match against UW, Feb. 4, 2024, in Seattle.

The WSU men’s basketball team has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2008, but in year five under head coach Kyle Smith, the Cougs, riding a three-game winning streak, are in the best position to make that leap in more than a decade.

With Quad 1 wins over Colorado and Washington, and a Quad 2 win over Utah, Wazzu sits firmly in the field or on the bubble depending upon whose bracketology you look at. 

CBS’s Jerry Palm has the Cougs as a nine seed in the East region playing the No. 8 seed Oklahoma Sooners in his latest bracketology following Wazzu’s Apple Cup win Saturday. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi on the other hand has WSU on the outside looking in as one of his first four out as of February 2. 

While a lot of bracketology is subjective, a lot of statistics and resume reflection go into the creation of each bracket. Things also will be made more complicated by bid-stealers, teams who would not be at large bids that win their conference tournament, at the end of the season.

On the statistics side, the Cougars got a bump from No. 44 up to No. 43 in the most recent rankings. Following a high-scoring 90-87 win over UW, WSU’s adjusted offensive rating rose from 61st up to 49th, while the adjusted defensive rating took a hit falling from 40 down to 50.

Another thing still hurting the Cougs is that while they are now in second place in the Pac-12, surpassing the Oregon Ducks Saturday night, their strength of schedule is still holding back talks of being a powerhouse, being rated at No. 65 in the country by 

Still, the Pac-12 standings are important with the conference still being considered Power Five despite a down year resulting in only Arizona – the only team above WSU in the Pac-12 standings – being the lone ranked team at No. 8 in the most recent AP poll. Currently, the Cougs, at 16-6 overall and 7-4 in conference are trailing the Wildcats (17-5, 8-3 Pac-12) by just one game in both overall and conference record, with Wazzu holding the current head-to-head tiebreaker.

Another key in bracketology decision-making is resume, good and bad wins and losses. The NCAA uses the NET to rank teams based on the resume they have built using Quad 1-4 to categorize wins and losses based on their quality. 

A win or loss is categorized as Quad 1 when the opponent is ranked 1–30 and played at home, 1–50 when played at a neutral site and 1–75 when played on the road. View this article by USA Today for an explanation of the criteria for each quadrant.

Currently, WSU sits at No. 40 in the NET being 4-3 in Quad 1, 3-2 in Quad 2, 1-1 in Quad 3 and 8-0 in Quad 4. Quad wins and losses are fluid and change as the opponents played earlier in the year rise and fall in the NET rankings throughout the year, but as it sits, the Cougs Quad 1 wins are Boise State (No. 35, neutral site), Colorado (No. 29, at home), Arizona (No. 4, at home) and Washington (No. 73, on the road). 

Many things will change among the Cougs current Quad records before the season is over but currently, the former WSU opponent closest to jumping up a Quad in the NET is Utah, who Wazzu defeated at home. The Utes currently sit at No. 34 in NET and would need to enter the top 30 to go from a Quad 2 to a Quad 1 win for the Cougars.

The Cougs’ win over UW on Saturday was in jeopardy of falling to a Quad 2 win if the Huskies, ranked No. 73 in the NET at the time, fell outside of the top 75 as a result of the loss. Luckily for WSU, however, UW stuck at No. 73 despite falling at home.

For those who want the Cougs’ resume to improve, the best thing to do is not only to root for WSU to keep winning, primarily on the road where they are just 3-3, but also for former Cougar opponents to not only win themselves but also to keep moving up the Quad rankings before all is said and done.

National attention is another key in Wazzu’s journey towards the tourney, and it is improving, with the Cougs receiving six votes in the most recent AP poll, the 10th most among non-ranked schools. 

Beating teams currently in the field and only picking up losses to teams in it helps as well. Currently, WSU has beaten Boise State, Colorado, Utah and Arizona who are all in the field or on the bubble according to both Palm and Lunardi. 

Among the Cougs’ losses this season are Mississippi State, who is in the field currently, Colorado, Utah and Oregon who the Cougs rematch with this weekend. 

The other two Cougar losses are to California on the road and Santa Clara at a neutral site. The loss to the Golden Bears still qualifies as Quad 2 thanks to it being on the road, but the Santa Clara loss still haunts WSU, being their lone Quad 3 loss. For the Broncos to move up, they would need to jump into the top 100, currently sitting at No. 112.

There will be tournament talk every game from now until the end of the season, and while Smith acknowledges it, he also knows they need to focus on what is right in front of them.

“One at a time, all the cliches apply. That’s my new cliche. My new cliche is all the cliches apply. On to the next. We can’t get wrapped up in that stuff. We’re still a long way from being in the field and if you have a setback you got to be ready for the next one. The Cal game, it would have been easy for us to hang our heads. We played really well at home and then were able to rally up and [beat UW] in overtime,” Smith said following the UW game in his post-game press conference.

There is plenty of season left and the Cougs hopes rest not only on their own performance but that of others. WSU is in the best spot they have been in in years, and with nine remaining conference games, there is a great opportunity for the Cougs to either stumble or leave no doubt and roll into their first NCAA Tournament in 16 years.

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About the Contributors
LUKE WESTFALL, Evergreen sports co-editor
Luke Westfall is a junior in Broadcast News from Custer, WA. He is an avid fanatic of the many sports at many levels who spends all his available time indulging in them. Luke began working at the Evergreen in Spring 2022.
COLE QUINN, Evergreen Sports Photographer
Cole Quinn is a photographer and columnist for the Daily Evergreen. Cole primarily shoots sports for the Daily Evergreen and writes album reviews in his spare time. Cole is a junior broadcast production major and sports communication minor from Snoqualmie, Washington. Cole started working for the Evergreen in the fall of 2020 as a photographer. Cole was the Photo Editor during his sophomore year and Deputy Photo Editor for the fall 2022 semester.